Monday, April 30, 2012

The Joy (and Terror) of Editing

These days I’ve got my nose to the grindstone, hard at work on editing my third novel—Rift Jump—due out this summer from Splashdown Darkwater. Getting back edits on your novel is something akin to being sound asleep in the security of your ability, only to have some objective third party douse you with a pail of cold, harsh reality. There’s the knee-jerk anger (How dare they tell me I have a POV problem—it’s supposed to be that way!), quickly followed by self-pity and defeat (Oh, they’re right. I’m a terrible writer). It’s a familiar roller coaster and I suspect it’ll never get any easier. But, if you can tough it out through the first few stages of Writer Denial, you finally come to a weird sort of euphoria. You begin to look at your work as objectively as you can and start cutting away the unnecessary parts. Little by little, you’re left with this little gem.

Is it perfect?

An emphatic “NO”. When I began this writer thing, I was convinced that I would get to a point where my craft was honed. I’m talking like a deadly point, able to obliterate through all editorial critique, and pierce the heart of every reader with the ring of truth.

It doesn’t work like that. There is always, and I mean always, room to grow. It’s a hard lesson. Not just because you realize you have so much more learning to do, but because you look back at earlier works and see them for all their flaws.

With every editorial process, I learn something about myself. I see faults in my craft, and holes are punched in my most beloved stories. I don’t love them any less, though I might be a little more reluctant to share them with people out of my self-conscious paranoia :p But all I can do is move forward, trying with every book to be the best I can be, and hoping that I don’t embarrass myself too much along the way.

Once the euphoria of forging a tighter manuscript begins to fade, I’m usually left with a new feeling. One that brings me joy and terror.

The last minute rewrite. 

I sit there, cradling my creative baby, realizing that this will be the last time I read over this manuscript. This will be the last time I edit it, the last time I think about it, the last time I work on it. Then it’ll be out of my hands, off to the printer, and into the homes of readers to dissect her or discard her (or maybe, if I’m really blessed, love her). And, undoubtedly, after I’ve spent some time away from the manuscript and have worked on a plethora of other projects, I come back to it afresh with—gasp!—new ideas. I’ve thought of a subplot I want to add. I’ve thought of a character I want to elaborate on. I’ve thought of more dialogue, more scenes—better scenes! There’s that moment of joy that my imagination has been sparked, and I’ve rediscovered these characters and their world! Then there settles the fear of adding and subtracting. What if that new subplot is stupid? What if adding that scene completely alters the course of the story? What if everything was fine the way it was? What if I submit it to the printer and THEN get a “brilliant” idea that I must add?! What if, what if, what if!

It’s hard letting our babies go. But it’s a part of life and a part of the writer’s life. Ultimately we have to do our best and send them out into the world, trusting that we’ve given them everything they’ll need to succeed. I've been tinkering with Rift Jump since I was fifteen years old or so--it's time to let her go. Will she be without flaw? Never. But I'll still love her, just as I love all my babies. I hope you will too, warts and all :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

An Uncertain Future?

This past week I was invited to speak at the Online Apologetics Conference of Athanatos Ministries . I presented my apologetic talk “CSI Golgotha: A Forensic Analysis of the Death of Jesus of Nazareth” and followed that up on Saturday with “Christian Speculative Fiction and Apologetics”. I was surprised by some of the negative and the positive responses to both presentations. But I was very pleasantly surprised by the careful attention Anthony Horvath, the founder of the ministry, placed on the importance of the intersection of faith and literature.
We had great conversations about the importance of story as a method of propagating the truth of Christianity. There were in depth talks about Chesterton and Lewis and Charles William and Dorothy Sayers. There were deeply moving talks about truth and how we should convey truth to a godless, postmodern world. I was particularly proud of being able to talk about us, the authors of Charisma Media and to talk about our publisher.
Recently while in the Orlando, Florida area, I had the opportunity to sit down with Adrienne Gaines, my representative with Charisma and then to have a great conversation with Debbie Marrie. I’ve been in publishing now for over 10 years and the graciousness, the openness, the familiarity and sense of community I experienced in that small conference room was breathtaking. We truly are blessed to be a part of a great organization! And then, on Sunday morning at my book signing, Althea Thompson, the publicity coordinator for Charisma drove across town just to come by and have a chat with me. I was stunned.
Why am I going on about this? After listening to over a dozen writers and authors speak about the condition of the Christian publishing machine out there, I think we have much to be thankful for. Mike Duran in one of his recent post  lamented over the poor understanding many of the major publishers have towards Christian speculative fiction as evidenced by the listings of the publishers who will be at this year’s ACFW conference. 
What is the future of such speculative fiction? Are we a flash in the pan? In my presentation, I talked about the challenges of positioning speculative fiction in our brick and mortar Christian book stores. Where do you put such books? How would a potential reader find such books? And, the even greater challenge for Christian speculative fiction as well as more mainstream Christian fiction is the physical location of our books in the back corner of brick and mortar secular book stores. It would seem we must continue to work hard at social media and marketing to sell most of our books through our online presence.
At this conference, most of the participants were stunned to learn there were books available that actually included some elements of a defense of the Christian faith. Books such as Matt Mikalatos’ “Night of the Living Dead Christian”. Or, Stephen Lawhead’s book “The Skin Map”. I mentioned Mike Duran’s book, “The Resurrection” as well as my own book, “The 13th Demon”. A very powerful story that is literally brimming with apologetic discussion is Bill Meyer’s book, “The God Hater”. I may have managed to raise the awareness of our books among the 35 to 40 participants of the conference. But, it is an uphill battle. We all have participated in discussions about our challenges in getting our books out there to secular and Christian readers. I don’t know what the answers will be. It seems we have to continue to pound away with our blogs, Facebook pages, speaking engagements, and Twitter feeds to keep raising the awareness of our books. What do you think? How are you facing this challenge?

Sunday, April 22, 2012


In March, I posted asking about whether surprises are good or bad. I think we all agreed that we like good surprises, but we're not so fond of bad surprises. Since that post, I've had a couple of the not so good ones mixed in.

Just before I was going to send in the completed manuscript for book three in the McKenna's Daughter series, the doctor told my husband he needed a biopsy of his bladder. Let me tell you that trying to do your own final edit of a manuscript while dealing with the possibility of cancer or something almost as bad with your soul mate of almost 48 years takes a toll on your creativity.

The week James had the biopsy, came home and waited two whole days before we got the report, then had another uncomfortable time at the doctors, I just had to keep plunging forward, whether I wanted to or not. How did I deal with that?

The same way I deal with good surprises. I look toward the Lord. I lean on Him and trust Him to be there no matter the outcome.

Two scant weeks later, this past week, I had to have an angiogram or heart cath. That, too, was an unwelcome surprise. Not a thing to be grasped. But at the same time, I knew that I could trust the Lord and He would take care of me whatever the outcome.

I sometimes ask myself what's the worst thing that can happen? That's easy. I could die and go to be with the Lord in heaven. That puts things into perspective. Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to hurry the end of my life away. I only want to go when the number of my days are finished.

We had good reports from both of these events. And God never left our sides, in the operating rooms, in the hospital room, on the days we didn't feel very good, and now that we're recovering. Don't you just love that about the Lord.

And there are plenty of good things scattered between. Our youngest granddaughter decided she wanted to be baptized this weekend. That's a big step for a teenager to make in front of their Christian friends. The time was special.

And I have two upcoming events. On May 5, I have an event at the Library in Bedford, Texas, near where I live.

Then May 15, Mary's Blessing releases, so on May 19, there will be a Book Release event at Mardel Christian Store in Hurst, the town where I live.

So what do I do to deal with bad surprises. I trust the Lord and keep my eyes on Him.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Good Inspiration

On April 20th 1999, my children were five and seven at the time of the Columbine shooting. Their elementary school was the location where students reunited with their parents. Our babysitter hid under a table in the cafeteria for hours until the SWAT team came. She later spoke to schools with the message, where would you be in your faith if that happened to you today? Her calling was just one of the many what God works for good that came from that tragedy.

The community created a network of people wiling to help those in need. From counselors to hall monitors, prayer walks and more, people stepped up and did their part. What God works for good.

Church groups helped with meals. Usually a simple task but delivering meals to those who had lost a child or had an injured child was not simple at all. Many broke down at the sight of us when we came bearing home cooked meals. What God works for good.

A mother whose son was injured started a prevention committee. She didn’t pity herself having a son who would never have the use of his foot. She got involved like the rest of us. What God works for good.

Our good friend was on one of the SWAT teams. He wouldn’t talk about the incident, buried in his heavy heart. Because of his experience he created new strategies and nationwide training for other SWAT teams on how to deal with situations like Columbine. What God works for good.

Our neighbor was in the science room, hiding in a closet with another student and teacher who had been shot, and died during her watch. She had a difficult time recovering from that experience, but became a believer through it all. What God works for good.

The Olympics reminded our country of Columbine when the principal of the school ran with the torch down the street in front of Columbine High School. He is still the principal today. What God works for good.

Count them, seven works for good, the perfect number. One horrific day against an infinity of what Christ is still working for good.

Seven years later the Amish shootings took place. The forgiveness they gave was a lesson to us all. Although there was forgiveness during the Columbine tragedy, the Amish took it to a new level. The mother of the man who shot the Amish still visits one of the girls who lived through the ordeal. She reads to her and takes her swimming every Thursday, even though the girl doesn’t have the use of her legs, and can’t talk. The Amish parents welcome this woman into their home, and they share a meal together.

One of the many good things that came from these experiences is it’s taught me how to realistically weave God into my stories. Faith issues are a common weakness for my characters, even the good ones. The, how could God let this happen, phrase is relatable to readers, so they join in the journey of working through my characters to make the situation into good, which rings true for me. I saw both bitterness and hope at Columbine, I chose hope.

Question: What difficult experiences have inspired your writing?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Don't Keep It To Yourself

I attended the Women of Faith One Day Conference in Cincinnati on the 14th. It was amazing and uplifting. I hadn't gone for a long time and I'm posting on another aspect of the conference on my personal blog tomorrow. But I wanted to share one little thing that I heard that is a really big thing. I know you all realize this on some level but it especially hit home for me at the conference.

Sheila Walsh spoke about a friend inviting her to speak at a fancy country club and she was doubting herself and wondering what she could share with folks who were in a better financial standing than she was at that time. Of course her friend hadn't quite prepared her with all the details. :) I won't share it all here but the speech went well and people she thought wouldn't approach her with their stories did approach her.

All this to say that it's amazing how God sets us up to hear just what we need to hear when we need to hear it. Got that? :) The friend sitting next to me that day had recently invited me to speak to a group of women on the day prior to Mother's Day. The theme is going to be on Unconditional Love. Speaking in front of others isn't my favorite thing to do, but I'm going to try and get past my discomfort to share a message I hope will uplift someone else, just like Sheila ( Angelic Visitor), and Ken Davis (Prayer for Grandpa), and Scott MacIntyre ( Interview), did at the conference. What I heard was basically if you have a gift, don't keep it to yourself, share it with others.

Now my gift may not be speaking, I don't really know yet. But at this point in time God has chosen me as he's chosen the other writers on this blog, and you too if you're a writer that is reading this. If you have the gift to write then write and do it as well as you can. If you have a gift, no matter what it might be, are you sharing it? And be prepared that God may ask you to step up and do more. It's kind of scary and kind of awesome. So on May 12th I will step up and address a group of women at a church concerning unconditional love. I know you all will keep me in your prayers as I prepare for this opportunity. :) Don't forget.

So when's the last time you spoke in front of a group? How'd it go? What do you feel your gift is? I know we frequently have more than one. As a counselor,  I have the gift of encouragement. I hope that spills over into my writing and my speaking. Is there someone you were listening to at a conference or church or work who inspired you recently? What did they say?

Be Blessed!